EU rules for the taxation of alcohol
Directive 92/83/EEC — harmonised structures of excise duties on alcohol and alcoholic drinks
Directive (EU) 2020/1151 amending Directive 92/83/EEC
WHAT IS THE AIM OF THE DIRECTIVE?
Directive 92/83/EEC sets out the EU rules for:
excise duties on alcohol and alcoholic drinks;
the categories of alcohol and alcoholic drinks subject to excise duties; and
the basis on which the duty is calculated.
Amending Directive (EU) 2020/1151 was adopted:
to update and clarify some of the rules of Directive 92/83/EEC that had resulted in unnecessarily burdensome administrative procedures for both tax administrations and businesses;
to update the rules allowing EU countries to apply reduced rates on certain alcoholic products;
to ensure the uniform application of the conditions for fixing excise duty on beer, for which it is necessary to lay down conditions for measuring the degrees Plato* and to ensure a smooth transition to a harmonised methodology for its measurement.
Under Directive 92/83/EC
The excise duty levied on beer is based on the number of hectolitre/degrees Plato or on the number of hectolitre/degrees of alcohol by volume of finished product.
EU countries may divide beers into categories consisting of no more than 4 degrees Plato and may charge the same rate of duty per hectolitre on all beers in each category.
Reduced rates of excise duty can be applied to beer brewed by small, independent breweries, as long as those rates:
- are not applied to brewers producing more than 200,000 hl of beer per year;
- are not more than 50% below the standard national rate of excise duty.
Reduced rates must apply equally to beer delivered into that country from small breweries situated in other EU countries.
Reduced rates, which may fall below the minimum rate, can be applied to weaker beers, i.e. those with a maximum alcoholic strength by volume of 2.8% vol. (increased to 3.5% vol. from 1 January 2022, by amending Directive (EU) 2020/1151).
For sweetened or flavoured beer, amending Directive (EU) 2020/1151 lays down a harmonised approach for measuring the degrees Plato. This is to ensure that the ingredients of the beer added after fermentation are taken into account for the purpose of measuring the degrees Plato. The amending directive allows EU countries which, on 29 July 2020, had not taken into account the ingredients of the beer added after fermentation for the purposes of measuring the degrees Plato, to continue to use the currently applied methodology for a transitional period until 31 December 2030.
Wine, other fermented drinks and intermediate products
In relation to these products, Directive 92/83/EEC sets the following rules.
The duty levied on still and sparkling wine and other fermented drinks (e.g. cider and perry) and intermediate products (e.g. port and sherry) is based on the number of hectolitres of the finished product.
EU countries must levy the same rate of duty within each category of drink.
A reduced rate of excise duty can be applied to any type of wine and other fermented drinks with a maximum alcoholic strength by volume of 8.5% vol.
EU countries may apply a single reduced rate to intermediate products with a maximum alcoholic strength by volume of 15% vol. if this rate is:
- not more than 40% below the standard national rate;
- not less than the standard rate applied to still wine and other still fermented drinks.
Amending Directive (EU) 2020/1151 allows:
EU countries to apply reduced rates of duty to wine produced by independent small wine producers within the following limits:
- the reduced rates must not be applied to undertakings producing on average more than 1,000 hl or, in the case of Malta, on average more than 20,000 hl of wine per year
- the reduced rates must not be set more than 50% below the standard national rate of excise duty;
EU countries to apply reduced rates of duty to independent small producers within the following limits:
- up to 15,000 hl for other fermented beverages and
- up to 250 hl for intermediate products.
The main rules under Directive 92/83/EEC are the following.
The duty levied on pure alcohol and spirit drinks is calculated per hectolitre of pure alcohol, when measured at a temperature of 20°C.
Reduced rates may be applied to ethyl alcohol (ethanol) produced by small distilleries producing up to 10 hl of pure alcohol per year; however, this may not be more than 50% below the standard national rate of excise duty.
EU countries must apply any such reduced rates equally to ethanol originating from small distilleries in other EU countries.
With regard to spirits, Directive (EU) 2020/1151 amends the rules allowing certain EU countries to apply a reduced rate to ethanol produced in fruit growers’ distilleries from fruit (such as apples, pears, grape marc and berries).
Under conditions that EU countries lay down to ensure correct and straightforward application of the exemptions and to prevent any evasion, avoidance or abuse, Directive 92/83/EEC permits products to be exempt from excise duty if they are:
denatured* in accordance with the requirements of any EU country;
denatured and used to make products not intended for human consumption;
used to produce vinegar, medicines, foodstuffs or food flavourings.
From 1 January 2022, amending Directive (EU) 2020/1151:
requires EU countries to exempt from excise duty completely denatured alcohol which was completely denatured in another EU country, in accordance with the method authorised by that other country;
permits EU countries, under a number of conditions, to exempt from harmonised excise duty products covered by Directive 92/83/EEC when they are used in the manufacture of food supplements (under Directive 2002/46/EC relating to food supplements — see summary);
clarifies the procedures for the notification of changes to the requirements for the complete denaturing of alcohol.
Introduction of a new common certification system for independent small producers of all types of alcohols and alcoholic drinks
Amending Directive (EU) 2020/1151:
introduces a common certification system in the EU for confirming the status of independent small producers, recognisable in all EU countries;
gives the European Commission the power to adopt implementing acts setting out the detailed rules concerning this certificate.
List of excise duties rates
Twice a year, the Commission publishes a full list of excise duty rates in force in EU countries.
FROM WHEN DO THE DIRECTIVES APPLY?
Directive 92/83/EEC has applied since 10 November 1992 and had to become law in the EU countries by 31 December 1992.
Amending Directive (EU) 2020/1151 has to become law in the EU countries by 31 December 2021. EU countries must apply the rules of the directive as of 1 January 2022.
For more information, see:
Degrees Plato: the number of degrees Plato measures the percentage in weight of the original extract per 100 grams of beer. This value is calculated from the actual extract and the alcohol contained in the finished product.
Denatured alcohol: ethyl alcohol made unfit for drinking by adding one or more chemicals to it.
Council Directive 92/83/EEC of 19 October 1992 on the harmonisation of the structures of excise duties on alcohol and alcoholic beverages (OJ L 316, 31.10.1992, pp. 21-27)
Successive amendments to Directive 92/83/EEC have been incorporated into the original document. This consolidated version is of documentary value only.
Council Directive (EU) 2020/1151 of 29 July 2020 amending Directive 92/83/EEC on the harmonisation of the structures of excise duties on alcohol and alcoholic beverages (OJ L 256, 5.8.2020, pp. 1-10)
Directive 2002/46/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 10 June 2002 on the approximation of the laws of the Member States relating to food supplements (OJ L 183, 12.7.2002, pp. 51-57)
See consolidated version.
Council Directive 92/84/EEC of 19 October 1992 on the approximation of the rates of excise duty on alcohol and alcoholic beverages (OJ L 316, 31.10.1992, pp. 29-31)
last update 15.10.2020